Homily – March 1, 2020

I Sunday Lent
Year A

A couple of Sundays ago, while on vacation, my friend – a priest from CT – and I decided we would check out the local parish for Mass. We typically celebrate Mass ourselves but in addition we decided to go to Mass as well. It is something I rarely get to do … sit in the pew. I got to observe so many things happening all around … one thing I really enjoyed was Father’s homily. It was 7 minutes – I timed it! And since there are no copyright laws on homilies I thought I’d share…
He spoke about a young man in the youth group that he had recently met. The kids were discussing what they were going to pursue after graduation from high school. This one young man told the group he was joining the Navy to become a Navy SEAL. Impressed, Father asked him why… The kid responded: because I don’t want to settle for the mediocre in life. He went on to explain the meaning of the word ‘mediocre’: a combination of 2 Latin words: ‘medius’ – middle and ‘ocris’ – mountain … middle of the mountain, halfway… The kid meant that he didn’t want to only go halfway…. to only do that which is necessary and nothing more … He wanted to always strive for greatness … for excellence.

Imagine for a second if heading out into the desert, Jesus decided after a few days – this is enough, people will get the point. I’ll tell the boys to make it 40 days … that will get them to suffer a little. What kind of a message does that send to you and me? But He doesn’t do that … having fasted for 40 day He is tired, hungry, weak … that’s when the devil shows up to attack Him. Jesus doesn’t give in … He doesn’t cave in the midst of a weakened state … He sees it through to the end… He’s ALL IN…

In so doing Jesus sets an example for us, He sets the tone of the Christian life. Our participation in the 40 days of Lent corresponds to His 40 days of fasting in the desert and His being tempted. But its more than just that – our earthly life can at times feel like wandering through desert, trying to find God, being tempted by the worldly things. This testing of Jesus and His victory shows us that our own victory over sin and temptation is possible … through prayer, penance, obedience to the Word of God … a firm desire to seek the food that nourishes the soul … in other words we too have to be ALL IN. We cannot settle for halfway – for the mediocre … in life and in faith we have to see it through to the end – we have to be ALL IN…

What does that mean – to be ALL IN? G.K. Chesterton once said that its not that the Catholic faith has been tried and found wanting; its been found difficult and left untried … And that’s the point … are we trying or are we settling? Do we make the effort to make it to weekly Mass AND holy days of obligation or is once a month enough? Do we pray everyday or only in times of distress? What about confession … a sacrament that is vital to our spiritual well-being … Are we familiar with the teachings of the Church – which admittedly can be difficult to comprehend – but do we make an effort to learn and to understand – this is an important piece because so many people have their own ideas of what the Church teaches and the message she sends and its completely wrong … but then use it as an excuse to settle or worse – walk away … I’m not saying we are going to understand completely or even agree … are we trying … I’m not saying we are going to always get it right because frankly, none of us here are perfect … but are we trying – have we settled for the mediocre or are we striving for excellence – reaching for greatness – for holiness … are we ALL IN?

The psalmist today says it all: “a willing spirit sustain in me” – may this be our Lenten motto to help us not settle but rather strive for excellence and deeper communion with God.

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